While media reports of rising rates of opiate addiction and opiate-related fatalities have made the dangers of opiate abuse clear, it can be hard to relate these incidents to one’s own life. This is especially true for people who currently abuse opiates.
Whether you started using opiates as a pain treatment or entered into casual drug use, these drugs have a way of luring the mind into a state of false complacency while eating away at your will along the way. In effect, underestimating opiate addiction’s effects opens the door for addiction to take over your life.
The Opiate Abuse Cycle
Opiates interact with the brain’s chemical system in seemingly “natural” ways to the point where the brain treats opiates like one of its own neurotransmitter chemicals. These interactions set the stage for the opiate addiction cycle to begin.
According to the Journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, over the course of drug abuse, opiates alter essential brain chemical pathways in such a way that a state of physical dependence forms with continued drug use. Over time, physical dependence morphs into an emotional or psychological dependence. At this point addiction has taken root.
Signs That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked
It doesn’t take very long at all before ongoing opiate use causes uncomfortable withdrawal effects to develop. Withdrawal effects result from growing chemical imbalances in the brain as opiates start to take over essential neurotransmitter production processes.
Withdrawal effects aptly reflect the degree of chemical imbalance in the brain as symptoms will become more severe the longer a person keeps using the drug. Symptoms commonly experienced during withdrawal include:
- Random aches and pains
- Problems concentrating
- Mood swings
Increasing Dosage Amounts
One of the key sings of a developing opiate abuse problem shows up as a gradual increase in dosage amounts over time. With continued opiate use, increasing brain tolerance levels will occur as the cells most affected start to lose their sensitivity to opiate effects, according to the Journal of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
With each dose of the drug, opiates force neurotransmitter-producing cells to secrete excess amounts of chemicals. Before long, these cells start to take on structural damage from having to work harder than usual.
In the process, opiate effects will grow weaker and weaker unless a person keeps increasing dosage amounts. For the most part, this mechanism of action drives the opiate addiction cycle.
A Preoccupation with Drug-Related Activities
A growing physical dependence soon evolves into a psychological dependence as the brain comes to “need” opiates to function. What was once a casual indulgence soon becomes an everyday obsession that drives a person’s thinking, emotions and behavior.
This condition inevitably starts to show up in your daily life, changing your priorities, habits and motivations. Lifestyle effects to watch for include:
- Relationship conflicts over drug use
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and pursuits
- Change in social group
- Problems on the job or loss of employment
- Legal troubles, such as DUIs
Ultimately, underestimating opiate addiction can be a dangerous state of mind as these drugs will slowly but surely take over your ability to see that a problem even exists.